To be a composer
Symphony No 4 -
appreciated by RON BIERMAN
'... Buswell's playing is consistently rich and beautiful.'
<< Read from the start of Ron Bierman's Lees feature
Lees' Fourth Symphony was written for and premièred by the
Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Naxos recorded it as part of its American Classics series.
We can be certain the Cold War is over when the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
is able to rehearse and record a solid performance in just two weeks. The piece is
subtitled 'Memorial Candles' and its subject is the Nazi Holocaust. For those unfamiliar
with Lees, it is a good, though harrowing introduction. Settings of the powerful verse of
Nelly Sachs are at the heart of the work. Sachs won the Nobel Prize for Literature in
1966 and Lees had long known he would eventually find an appropriate setting for words
that had affected him so deeply.
The work is in three movements. The first is over twenty minutes in length and could be
a standalone piece. In context it is an ominous instrumental prelude to the verse settings
of the succeeding movements. The first theme appears in the woodwinds
[listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:17]. Development begins immediately
and leads to a climax preceding the second theme which is stated in the basses. The two
themes undergo intense and continuous development for the remainder of the movement, with
frequently varied instrumentation. In this excerpt, violinist James Buswell concentrates
on the second theme in a mini-cadenza
[listen -- track 1, 14:55-16:28]. The solo violin
suggests Jewish folk music throughout the symphony and Buswell's playing is consistently
rich and beautiful.
Copyright © 3 September 2003
Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA